Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Radio and Television Report to the American People on the European Trip.

September 10, 1959

[Delivered from the President's Office at 7:30 p.m.]

Good evening, My Friends:

In these next few minutes, I should like to talk to you mainly about my recent European trip.

To give you first my most memorable impression it is that the people of Europe have a deep liking for the people of America. This they made manifest in a number of ways. In the villages, towns, and in the big cities I could feel this message rushing across the Atlantic to you. Along the lanes and country roads the message was always the same. Even during a long automobile trip to make a courtesy visit to the Queen and to her family, there was scarcely a hundred yard stretch of road that did not have its little knot of people to send back this same greeting and this same sentiment to America.

During the past two weeks I have conferred, as you know, with Chancellor Adenauer of Germany, Prime Minister Macmillan of Britain, and President de Gaulle of France, all old friends of mine. I talked with Prime Minister Segni of Italy; also with Mr. Luns of Holland and Mr. Spaak of Belgium who are, respectively, the President and Secretary General of the NATO Council.

These men are statesmen. Like us, they are dedicated to preserving the security of free nations and to upholding the values we place above all others--freedom, equality of opportunity, human dignity, and peace with justice.

With them we reaffirmed our unity on fundamental issues and in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

There will be no retreat from the fundamental objectives to which we are collectively pledged. We agreed that the defensive strength required for our common security must continue to be maintained.

For the face-to-face reaffirmation of this faith and purpose, I am grateful and deeply gratified. I had the same feeling during my entire journey, in talking to President Heuss of Germany, and great numbers of other men and women in and out of government.

To our friends in Bonn, London, and Paris, I expressed America's concern over the aggressive actions of the Communism in Asia. Each believed that the United Nations should take official notice of the Laos situation and that we should support that body in seeking a satisfactory solution. Mr. Macmillan was especially emphatic on this point. I am happy that the United Nations has already designated a fact-finding commission of neutral observers. I hope that this prompt United Nations action will serve to halt the aggression that has threatened the freedom of Laos.

Quite naturally much of our discussion centered about our defensive alliance, NATO. All expressed approval of its growing capability to secure cooperation among member nations in political, economic, and scientific areas, as a supplement to its work in the security field. The Common Market and similar developments tending to knit more closely together the nations of Europe, also engaged our attention.

One subject involved in our discussions was that of the growing problems faced by the under-developed or newly-formed nations of the world. More than one billion needy people require real advances in education, health facilities, and living standards. There is an understandable ferment among them--an intense dissatisfaction with their present lot and an increasing determination to improve that lot. They must have greater technical assistance in all fields, large amounts of investment capital, and wider opportunities for trade.

Since all of us outside the Iron Curtain want such progress to be achieved in freedom, the highly industrialized free nations must find effective means to provide the needed help. Each of us has undertaken to study this vast problem which could eventually become a menace to our own freedom. No one nation alone should or can bear the burdens involved, we see again in this matter the need for cooperation and unity among ourselves so that, through equitable sharing, success can gradually but surely be achieved.

In connection with this world-wide issue, I had in Paris a unique and most interesting opportunity to learn many things about political developments in all parts of French Africa. To that city had been invited the prime ministers of the countries making up the French Community. Eleven came.

They were so anxious to express in some unique form their admiration, liking, and respect for the people of America that they sent through one of their number, Prime Minister Youlou, a baby elephant. The baby elephant, I understand, is on its way here now, and I shall have to find for it a home in one of our zoos.

The people of these regions who are, in local affairs, largely self-governing, are being helped by France in their economic, cultural, and political progress. They have been assured by France of the right to make their own final decisions as to their own political destiny.

The morale of all these men is high. They repudiate the false teachings of communism. They have a vision of progress and future greatness in freedom. They emphatically expressed to me their gratitude to France and General de Gaulle for the opportunities opening up before them.

It was in this kind of atmosphere that I talked with our Western allies about the impending visit of Chairman Khrushchev to the United States.

I outlined to them the reasons for my invitation to him, which are simply:

First, to give him the opportunity to see what America and Americans are like; to let him see and feel a great and thriving nation living in real freedom.

Second, to give him, face to face, the basic convictions of our people on the major issues of the day, including West Berlin, and to hear from him directly his own views on those issues.

I assured our allies in private conversations, as I have on other occasions publicly, that my invitation to Mr. Khrushchev does not contemplate merely a ceremonial visit--just as it does not suggest any purpose of reaching definitive negotiation. But it does imply the hope that serious exploratory efforts may reveal new opportunities for practical progress toward removal of some of the causes of world tensions.

Conversations with Chairman Khrushchev will not include any negotiation concerning subjects that directly relate to the interests of our allies or to any other part of the free world.

In this connection, I know that neither America nor her allies will mistake good manners and candor for weakness; no principle or fundamental interest will be placed upon any auction block. This is well understood here and abroad.

Allied leaders expressed their understanding of the reasons that prompted the invitation to Mr. Khrushchev to visit America. While their hopes for progress revealed varying degrees of optimism, each was convinced that the effort was clearly one that had to be made.

Incidentally, I have every confidence that our people will greet Mr. Khrushchev and his wife and family with traditional American courtesy and dignity. We cannot fail to accord him the same consideration which the Soviet public gave to Vice President and Mrs. Nixon.

Having just returned from France, it might be appropriate to recall a comment made about our nation over a century ago by that remarkable observer, Tocqueville. He said, "The great sustaining force of America is not simply to be found in its laws or institutions--but in the manners of her people, her habits of heart."

Each of the leaders with whom I talked is fully aware of America's conviction that any agreement to hold a summit meeting must be based upon the certainty that our status and rights in Berlin will be respected. In addition, we believe there must be some clear Soviet indication, no matter how given, that serious negotiation will bring about real promise of reducing the causes of world tensions.

Should a summit meeting on such a basis ensue:

We and our allies stand ready always to negotiate realistically with the Soviets on any mutually enforceable plan for a reduction in armaments.

We are prepared to make a real beginning toward solving the problems of a divided Germany.

We are hopeful of arranging for wider contacts in ideas, publications, persons, and information.

We are, in short, ready to negotiate on any subject within the limits dictated by the dedication of our Government and our people, to the cause of a just peace, and our loyalty to the United Nations and to its basic concept. That concept is that international disputes should be settled by peaceful means, in conformity with the principles of justice and international law.

I repeat, we shall not retreat from these ideals or principles or weaken in our resolution to remain strong in their defense. This means that we must be as concerned about the freedom of two million West Berliners as we are about the freedom of any part of our coalition.

We must be concerned about threats to freedom, no matter where they may occur.

Though specific problems may at times present such difficulties as to prevent immediate, practicable solution, yet we must all understand that wherever freedom is denied or lost--whether in Asia, Africa, the Americas, or in Eastern Europe--by that much is our own Nation's freedom endangered. Firmness in support of fundamentals, with flexibility in tactics and method, is the key to any hope of progress in negotiation.

The choice before world leaders is momentous.

In the past, conferences have all too often been characterized by suspicion, threat, and stubborn prejudice, and results have been barren and bleak.

But, could we create an improved atmosphere of mutual understanding and serious purpose, it would be possible to attack, with renewed hope, the problems that divide us. If the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the U.S.S.R. has constructive ideas and suggestions that could provide the basis for responsible negotiation on the issues that divide us, we would welcome the opportunity to study them with our allies.

It is my profound hope that some real progress will be forthcoming, even though no one would be so bold as to predict such an outcome.

Fellow Americans, we venerate more widely than any other document, except only the Bible, the American Declaration of Independence.

That Declaration was more than a call to national action.

It is a voice of conscience establishing clear, enduring values applicable to the lives of all men.

It stands enshrined today as a charter of human liberty and dignity. Until these things belong to every living person their pursuit is an unfinished business to occupy our children and generations to follow them.

In this spirit we stand firmly in defense of freedom.

In this spirit we cooperate with our friends, and negotiate with those who oppose us.

If the forthcoming visit of Mr. Khrushchev to this Nation should bring to him some real appreciation of this spirit and this conscience, then indeed the venture would be a thousandfold worthwhile.

I know that all America prays to the Almighty that this might come to pass.

Thank you, and good night.

Note: The baby elephant "Dzimbo," presented to the President by the Reverend Fulbert Youlou, President of the French Communities of the Congo Republic, was received by the National Zoological Park, Washington, D.C., on October 10, 1959.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Radio and Television Report to the American People on the European Trip. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/234199

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